Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free trial today! Click here

Corporate aviation hiring demand is high

Professional pilot positions not limited to airlines

More than one-third of professional pilots are pursuing careers in corporate aviation instead of the airlines, said Future and Active Pilot Advisors founder Louis Smith, who added that business aviation accounts for 37 percent of professional pilot positions.

Aviation career specialist forecasts a robust business aviation market. Image courtesy of L3.

Boeing Co.’s Pilot and Technician Outlook 2021-2040 says long-term demand for professional pilots “remains strong” because of severe personnel shortages stemming from retirement and attrition. The company predicted a need for 612,000 pilots over 20 years, which amounts to 30,600 pilots per year, or about 2,550 new pilots per month.

The demand has led to flight schools filling up almost faster than training companies can build new facilities. ATP Flight School, a flight school with 70 locations, recently opened a 25,000-square-foot advanced pilot training center in Arlington, Texas, in response to a professional pilot shortage that temporarily waned during the coronavirus pandemic. Steppingstones for pilots aspiring to an airline flight deck position include gaining crucial commercial pilot flying experience progressing from CFIs to cargo or corporate pilot positions before making the leap to the airlines.

“While the business aviation side of the house is certainly a different animal, it offers many of the same benefits as a career with the airlines,” Smith said. An attractive option for corporate pilots is that they may be based close to their home instead of traveling to a hub-and-spoke airport to begin their shift at a major airline. On the other hand, the world of business aviation is service-oriented, so pilots should prepare themselves for face time with clients, a frequently changing schedule, and negotiating smaller airports, which may either “provide a refreshing breath of variety” or challenge their flying skills.

“While no one would dare minimize the role an airline pilot must play while in the cockpit, business aviation affords many pilots the opportunity to engage in more of the hospitality process and customer care elements of the flight,” he said. Business aviation flight departments are “actively engaged in the same competition as their Part 121 [commercial airline] brethren for the brightest and the best pilots in the industry.”

In the world of corporate careers, Wheels Up “continues to aggressively recruit pilots” and particularly first officers for the company’s bread-and-butter fleet of Beechcraft King Airs, Smith said. Wheels Up founder Kenny Dichter recently announced additional leadership in technology, marketing, and product development for the fast-growing flight-share company. “We’re going to make the Wheels Up platform more global, stronger, a platform that better serves our member and customers around the world. Wheels Up will be the Amazon of aviation,” Dichter said during the National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Las Vegas.

The company, which began less than 10 years ago in 2013, now has more than 2,000 employees, has access to 170 owned aircraft, roughly the same number of managed aircraft, and has slightly more than 1,200 partner aircraft, AOPA previously reported.

Luxury charter specialist Advanced Airlines is hiring for both pilot in command (PIC) and second in command (SIC) positions to fly Pilatus PC–12s and Beechcraft King Air 350s based in Phoenix, and in Hawthorne, California.

Large jet cargo and Part 135 carrier Kalitta Charters is also hiring for both PIC and SIC positions on the Boeing 727 and 737, and the Bombardier Learjet and Dassault Falcon jet lines.

Nicholas Air, serving the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, is recruiting pilots for a fleet of Pilatus PC–12s, Embraer Phenom 100/300s, Cessna Citation CJ3s and Latitudes, and Bombardier Challenger 300 jets.

XO is recruiting first officers for its growing fleet of business aircraft.

Three-year-old fractional operator Jet It, based in North Carolina, is hiring experienced Part 135 pilots for both PIC and SIC HondaJet positions. All pilots would be based in the Greensboro area.

Jet It founder and U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Glenn Gonzales, who has experience leading the HondaJet sales division and flying Gulfstream business jets, recently told that he was “very excited” to soon add six more twinjets to the company’s 15-aircraft fleet.

Gonzales said revenues are up five times “over what they were last year,” and he doesn’t “see an end in sight as it stands right now.” Gonzales said the downside is that it’s “definitely a struggle” to find qualified pilots and enough aircraft to satisfy demand. “The industry as a whole has really taken on the mantle of there's an opportunity for us all here to succeed.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Career

Related Articles